Get the Most Out of A Trip
If you're a English speaker, traveling to Asia can be a whole new different experience compared to traveling to Europe or other English speaking countries. As always the language barrier is a big factor hindering common things you normally and can easily do in English speaking countries. Without a guide you may have a hard time doing what you want on your itinerary. Here are the several reasons why you need a guide in Japan:
1. Avoid Getting Lost
Japan is not a third world country so you may think that it is highly developed and easily accessible. It is true, however if your looking for a particular spot that you read somewhere online and are using Google Maps to find it, then chances are it's not there... This is more common for local spots that travelers often don't go to but maybe you want to.
As you may already know, Japan is an island nation so space is limited especially in big cities. If you're in one of the big cities and are looking for a particular spot on Google Maps, the other major obstacle to overcome is that some of these popular places are located in huge buildings that have multiple floors or alleyways that are hidden unless you have some good sense of direction or have been there before.
In addition, most cities in Japan are not layed out in a grid like pattern like you normally would see if your in Europe or America. Without a guide, you may find the streets of Japan hard to navigate through and more times than not, get lost along the way. Save the time and hassle, get to your destination with a guide.
2. Skip the Line!
If you are traveling anywhere around the world for your vacation, the most important thing is time. You may think that visiting a place you saw in a YouTube video or read online can be done on your own in Japan. In reality it is not so simple. For example most of the shops in Japan, especially izakaya bars, cater mostly to locals so if you're looking for a old fashion Japanese style place to eat/drink with a historic atmosphere then you are probably out of luck and even more so if you don't speak any Japanese. In some cases shops may even deny you entrance if you don't speak their language. Don't take it personal but it is a business, would you rather have a easier time communicating with someone who speaks the same or with someone who doesn't? Your not the only person waiting to enter. Japan is a developed nation but most of the residents only speak Japanese and only a handful of people can speak English well.
Your time in Japan is limited, get local guides and tours in Japan who can go with you and have reserve seats ready so that you can avoid spending the most of your time standing around and waiting in line. Even for Disneyland in Japan, you can find a guide online that can help you avoid a two hour wait for rides. It exists and it is a life saver. Make the most out your stay in Japan.
3. Special Needs or Requests
In a country where only a handful of residents can speak English, it will be hard to communicate that you may have some sort of special needs or requests. For example if you only eat certain types of food or are allergic to things then you better speak some Japanese to save your life because most if not all the menu's in the restaurants are in Japanese. A guide can help you alleviate your concerns on your trip by bridging the gap between cultures and languages while giving you peace of mind that you will not die from eating some food or commiting a sin.
4. No Idea What's Good & Bad
You may have done prior research about what is good and bad in Japan. You may even have spent hours online scouring through the many videos and articles about it. Or you can channel that time into a meaningful moment by getting a guide who can save you that time and research. A tour guide is there for you to ask questions and give opinions on what is good and what is bad. Essentially they are your guide book and more. Often more times than not, travelers are caught in their hotel rooms or on their phones researching during their trip. Where should I go, Where should I eat, What I should do. Why spend that time researching during your trip when you can spend it by experiencing and having a guide show you around the places they know.
5. Hanging out with Friends
If you are a solo traveler, sometimes it can be hard to find people to talk to or you may be shy to start a conversation. Being in a group tour often times lead to good memories because they are filled with people who are just like you. Traveling, getting to know the country, want to talk with locals, and learn the culture. Joining a group tour and having a guide show you around can be like hanging out with old friends.
6. Interact with Locals
Get to know the people of the country you are visiting. If you can only speak English then your conversations may end in short often times awkward situations as many people in Japan don't speak any English. Sure you may get away with some gestures and google translate but common that'll take loong looong maaan! to just do a simple conversation. Talk to a guide who can speak your language and get to know a local who have lived in the country.
7. Get an Experience you Expected
Don't end a trip leaving regrets. Tours are there so that you can immerse yourself in the culture of the country. Guessing or figuring things out on your own may often lead to different impressions of the country. On your own you may get fustrated, annoyed, and dissatisfied about your experience. Avoid the hassle get a guide who can show you professionally what their country is all about.
Why you might NOT need a guide in Japan
Still thinking about whether or not you need a guide? Some travelers may not need a guide and are perfectly happy experiencing things on their own. Things that play well to their experience are:
1. Have Friends in Japan
Being in your comfort zone makes things a lot easier. If you have a friend that can show you around, essentially it's like having your own personal guide.
2. Speak Fluent Japanese
If you can speak fluently in Japanese, there might not be any issues with getting around in Japan and communicating with people.
3. Been in Japan before
If you have been to Japan before several times and have confidence in what you are doing then Japan is nothing new to you so you are able to do things efficiently.